Christmas is just one week away, and if you have children or grandchildren, they are probably counting down the days until they can open the presents under the tree. Experiencing the wonder of Christmas with children is one of life’s great joys – but it can also be a temptation to give in to the consumerism of the season and buy all. the. toys!
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ expressed his empathy for parents and grandparents during this time of year. He recently read that the highest-paid YouTube star is a 7-year-old who reviews toys and has millions of subscribers. He pointed out that this kind of children’s entertainment can make it especially difficult to combat consumerism in our kids.
Recognizing the difficulty parents face, he said, “Can you imagine? It was hard enough to be detached when you had a Sears catalog at home, and you got to see all the difference gadgets you could get. Now? All the reviews, and this boy who has a seemingly unending stream of new toys? It made me realize the challenge you have as parents. The expectations that your children have about the world, and about what’s going to make them happy.”
“You have to raise your children in a world where this is what they’re seeing,” he continued. “Where they’re comparing themselves to children on YouTube. And what do you do? How do you handle this? I don’t even know! You probably have to struggle with this every Christmas. How to make your children happy, but help them also realize what’s important.”
And it isn’t only children. It can be easy even for adults to slip into an attitude of consumerism – thinking we need to have the latest gadget, the trendy clothes, or the perfect home decor. Thinking that if we only had these things we would be happier.
“I think one of the solutions is to not buy in to what society says,” Fr. Matthew suggested. “Your children don’t need the toy of the month. Your grandchildren don’t need to receive every toy that’s out there. We don’t receive everything that we want, and we end up doing OK.”
He encouraged parents and grandparents to be a model for their children, and combat consumerism in their own lives so their children can see what is truly important. Fr. Matthew said, “Don’t buy-in to the culture. Don’t buy-in to the extreme consumerism that our world tells us will make us happy. It won’t. It won’t make us happy. And the more we buy-in to it the less happy we are. That’s the sad part about it. The more we possess the less happy we are.”
That’s not to say you need to turn into a Grinch and take away all your children’s presents. Giving gifts at Christmas isn’t a bad thing, it just needs to have its proper place.
“I want you to make your children happy,” Father Matthew reassured his listeners. “And sometimes getting them a special gift really makes a big difference. And that’s a wonderful thing, when our children receive the joy and the magic of receiving a gift that we never expected. It’s a wonderful experience.”
“But on the other hand, they live in a world that says: You should have everything! You should have all of the bells and whistles, and all the colors, all the latest toys, all the bounce houses, and all of this stuff. But that’s not what life is about, is it? Life is about so much more.”
So this Christmas, pray for the grace to keep things in perspective, and recognize what is really important in life. As Father Matthew said, “This season, especially, is about a relationship with Christ. Jesus didn’t have those toys. Joseph and Mary didn’t have that kind of excess and surplus in their life. You and I are going to be alright if we have Jesus in our life. And if we have our eyes set on Him and Him alone.”
Listen to the full reflection below: